Monday, October 6, 2008

Communication Audit

I asked a few different friends about their perceptions of me, my verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and the topics I normally feel comfortable discussing. One friend in particular, Jenn, talked to me at length about everything. After reflecting, I spent too long creating a mind map that doesn’t look half as nice as Josh Chave’s.

I tried to find shapes to color in that relate to the topic in some way, and I fashioned them bigger or smaller depending on the amount I know about that topic. For example, I’m abysmally uninformed when it comes to pop culture (hence the small can in grey), but I have done a decent amount of researching politics today (the four-way arrows demonstrate the breadth and extension of this election) (here's the most recent article I read). I still have plenty to learn, however, and I left white space in the section to designate that. As for the subdivision “Education,” Jenn pointed out that we share our experiences with each other of our classes and professors, even though we don’t have the same classes for the most part and therefore cannot really know much about the topic. This is an example of the Uncertainty Reduction Theory because we’re communicating to increase predictability (Campbell Eichhorn 65). Cultural awareness and world view are the main motivators of my curiosities, and they shape my subjectivity (Campbell Eichhorn 62). I colored in less than half of that section, because how could anyone possibly know everything about the world? As for “The Human Condition,” Jenn helped me distinguish between the aspects which simply require life experience to discuss (i.e. the possibility of utopia), the features that are debatable (i.e. the human urge for divinity), and the facets which require book smarts (i.e. the lack of minority writers in our literary canon and how this reflects our society). I illustrated that while I appreciate a good amount, I still have so much to explore. Of course, what I discuss and how I talk about it differ with each person. The textbook authors label this context (Campbell Eichhorn 63), but I have always called it using discretion. We all must be aware that what we say and how we say it should change depending on who we are speaking with.

I feel comfortable talking about 9/10 of these subjects because they are what interest me most. Although I don’t know much within the tenth topic—General Media, Pop Culture, and Miscellaneous Items—I feel comfortable in a discussion because my mannerisms save me. My friends mentioned that I am a good listener, and this is what translates to being able to uphold a conversation about something I’m unfamiliar with. My friends claimed that I never seem cornered or stumped by any topic. What they may not realize is that I use selection (Campbell Eichhorn 116) when listening—I focus on something that I do know about or relate to in my companion’s speech, and when he or she is done speaking, I’ll emphasize that thing in my response. Additionally, I try to ask the right questions about things I’m unfamiliar with until I get a sense of them.

Unintentionally, my friends’ descriptions of my nonverbal communication highlighted some of the nine forms. Kinesics is the primary one, of course. My friends said that while I seem cultured and smart, I also use my physical appearance (Campbell Eichhorn 96) and body language to give off the impression of being approachable, warm, and capable of befriending everybody. This goes back to Erving Goffman’s Dramaturgical Model: I shape others’ impressions of me through my friendly image and positive convincing behaviors. I am definitely one who is “always working to convince others to accept the impressions [I] desire.” A second aspect of my nonverbal communication is that I don’t at all filter my facial communication (Campbell Eichhorn 90) in intimate settings. My friends can tell when I don’t like an idea: I purse my lips, cock my head to one side like a puppy, and pull faces, which may include but are not limited to disbelief, disgust, annoyance, confusion, anger, or indifference. My friends also said that I make a lot of eye contact while listening and speaking fluently, but when I’m thinking hard, I look up and away from them. In terms of silence, I tend to take pauses frequently to gather my thoughts, to decide how to properly phrase an idea, and/or for dramatic effect. The only thing my friends did not agree on is my use hand gestures. Some said I use them often, and exaggeratedly; others said I hardly use them, and not excessively. As for proxemics, my American close friends and I all keep a good distance. A funny contrast to this is the way our French friends behave: they get really close when speaking one-on-one. To us, that is clearly defined as an invasion of our comfort zone (Campbell Eichhorn 94), but to them it’s normal.

I’ve rarely been to the doctor because I don’t have any disorders or vaccinations to keep up with, so I don’t have any fear or anxiety over doctors. I haven’t had a cavity since pre-school, so again, no trauma when it comes to dentists. I’m comfortable with authority figures. I’m familiar with special needs people because my little brother has autism. However, one situation that I get anxious over whenever I think about it is how to motivate kids to read. I want to be an English teacher, but one of my biggest fears is that I’m going to have a roomful of students that despise reading, and I won’t know how to motivate them to feel differently about books. I imagine when the time comes I’ll go through all four stages of anxiety: anticipatory, confrontational, adaptation, and release. Although I intend to stick to the Protocol of assertive communication—having a dual perspective, sending clear nonverbal messages, and using a confident voice and convincing body language—this has not completely worked in the past.

What I’m referring to is my failed attempts to get my 13-year-old sister to read. One of the biggest frustrations in my life is the fact that I, JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer have all failed to change her attitude. Because of this experience, I feel anxious about having a roomful of students who either don't like to read, don't feel motivated to, or like to but don't have the guts to be that one kid in class who enjoys the subject (which my group will discuss later—our theory is called “The Spiral of Silence” and explains the reasons behind such a silence). I have read the inspirational "To Sir With Love" and it actually added to my anxiety. I would like to think that I will be able to take control of the class and encourage them to want to learn like the author did, but I really won’t know until the time comes. Until then, I can adjust my nonverbal and various communication channels to better tune into the mindset of people (like my sister) who don’t enjoy reading. I can take extra time to listen to my little sister’s reasons for why she doesn’t like reading, and practice the dual perspective to try to reach out to her (Campbell Eichhorn 133). I can utilize discriminate, appreciative, comprehensive, evaluative, and empathetic listening to better understand where she’s coming from, and then offer non-confrontational suggestions that appeal to her interests. In the past, I engaged in monopolizing or defensive listening (Campbell Eichhorn 140-141) when talking to my sister about her lack of motivation for reading. I would get upset at her for having a different point of view (monopolizing), and to make up for my failed attempt to motivate her, I’d try to save face (defensive listening). I’ll be aware of these common listening misbehaviors next time I speak to her, and I’ll make an effort to avoid them.

Another poem:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other'
doesn’t make any sense."



Kaitlin Pendagast said...

You did a very nice job on this! Your mind map is great and I can tell it took a lot of time. You used awesome examples from both our readings and your own experiences/observations of different communication theories and vocabulary. You definitely seem like a natural writer and I really enjoyed the style you wrote this blog in. It was very conversational. I also liked how you went into such detail about other people's and your own perceptions about your nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication is such a huge part of communicating in general and it sounds like you are very aware of that. And I would say that you definitely succeed in giving off your desired impression of someone who is warm, friendly, and laid back through your nonverbal communication.
Like you, I have been told by friends that they see me as a good listener. Being able to listen is such an important skill and it definitely seems like many people nowadays think communication is all about just talking AT someone. I can see through your blog you are definitely not one of those people! Again, great job.

- Kaitlin

Jessie said...

Hey Julie I found your blog to be very interesting. . I also discuss a wide variety of topics with my friends .My sister Kate didn’t like to read and I found that talking about some of my favorite books got her interested. I have gotten to read a few of them. She not an active reader like I’m but she is more open to the idea. I thought it was interesting how you compared personal space between you American friends and your non-American. I again liked your poem in the end

Rose said...

Dear Julie,
First of all, I found it very funny that you mentioned Josh’s mind map because I was trying to get mine to look that good… ha, yeah that didn’t happen. But anyway, I think yours is great!
Secondly, I want to tell you that I loved reading your blog. There’s such a soft spirit about you and it shows in your reading. It was a beautiful post, and you shared a lot of meaningful insight into your communication style.
I thought it was a great point to mention that depending on whom we’re talking to really distinguishes what we say and how we say it. Each person in our lives gets a different version of us – not in a phony way, but just because we adapt to the personalities of those around us.
It is clear that you are highly intelligent and that you’re engaged in learning – about other people, the world, yourself, etc. You seem to have great listening skills and I feel like you appreciate people for who they are deep down inside. That’s very admirable.
Your friends told you that your body language shows others that you are approachable and warm. After having class with you for six weeks now, I can honestly say that I agree. You are welcoming, open-minded, thoughtful and sincere. Those are all great qualities to possess.
I liked the reflective tone of your blog post. Your thoughts flowed very nicely, and I’m pleased I got to know you better through this entry.

Drew said...

I enjoyed reading your blog alot. Your mind map was very nice, I couldn't even figure out how to make the pie chart for my blog. Your blog makes you seem like a very interesting person. I liked how specific you were in describing what you do when you do not disagree with people, which is an excellent example of nonverbal communication. I do agree with your friends in that you seem very approachable and easygoing.